Thursday, August 11, 2011

My mother's lunches

Photo: Maureen Viljoen

It is nearly spring in Cape Town. It creeps in on delicate green feet. My mother sent me this picture and wrote: "Still trying to do what you do. Lachenalias, Life from Stone s/b and parsley, rocket and pak choi salad (all from garden).  A beautiful day after very cold weather, snow on Table Mountain, heavy on other mountains, frost on lawn this morning - then cloudless blue sky all day."

Still trying to do what I do?

You have it all wrong, Mommy. I am still trying to do what you do! I know no one else who can produce a plate or a tableful of food as good looking, delicious and apparently effortless as you can. And I include many very fancy restaurants in that 'no one'. As for salads, rarely does anyone's vinaigrette come close, and if they do, my eyes open wide and I say, This salad is just as good as my mother's!

And perhaps sometimes it is effortless, like when you throw together a lunch plate for yourself every day, or for us if we are there. And occasionally I say, no don't worry, I'll do my own, and there I am beside you making my own plateful with the same ingredients - some leaves, some bread, some this, some that, and yours always, always looks better and is the one that I really want. I look at it with desire and I look at mine, and we laugh.

And sometimes the effortlessness is a complete illusion, because days and days have been spent in the kitchen  to produce silky soups, wobbly terrines, salads like gardens, marinated fishes and long-cooked lambs.

I miss you, and love you, and most of what I do is because you showed me how.  

I wish I had been there, too.


  1. On the plus side of living so far away, how wonderful that you can exchange pictures by email, your Mom can follow your daily blog entries, and the price of phonecalls/Skype are pretty reasonable. I recall communications with my mother across the ocean when I was at university being limited to air letters that took 5+ days in each direction, and maybe a once-or-twice-per-year telephone call. She never lived to see the wonders of the internet. (I date myself!).

    Beautiful photograph.

  2. Marie- such beautiful words...

  3. So nice that you appreciate your mother on so many levels, and enjoy each other's company. So many people learn that too late.

  4. Silky soups, wobbly terrines, salads like gardens, marinated fishes and long cooked lamb...
    is pure poetry. I appreciate your words and your pix so much!

  5. Thank you Chicken. Love you so much.

  6. Dit is mooi woorde oor jou Ma, Marie. Maar ook oor alle Ma's. My Ma is al 10 jaar dood, ek mis haar baie. Dis egter die reuk van sekere kos wat my dadelik na my Ma laat verlang. Pampoenkoekies, pannekoek en malvapoeding. Sy het 'n ongelooflike groentetuin gehad. Ek onthou haar in haar groentetuin, voorskoot aan en strooihoed op die kop.

  7. Wil jy nie die resep van jou Ma se slaaisous met ons deel nie? Of is dit 'n geheim?

  8. Pam - yes, when I first moved away it was airmail letters. Then faxes.

    Karen - x

    webb - and it is easier with distance, to see clearly, perhaps.

    ellen - ja...

    Rachelle - awwww.

    Carol - thank you!

    Hen - well. It is inadequate. I love you.

    Petro - daai dag maak my bang. Ek is jammer oor jou ma.

    O, en die slaaisous is geen geheim nie, ons het geen kookgeheime nie. Maar daar is geen resep nie, dis elke keer anders. Miskien moet ek daaroor skryf. Basies is die ratio altyd min of meer 4 to 1 - goeie olie en asyn of suurlemoensap. EV olyf of neutolies, sherry, wyn of champagne asyne, sout, peper, 'n bietjie suiker. Miskien knoffel of uie, miskien mosterd. Vars kruie, fyngekap. Dit hang af van wat in die slaai is!


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